The Parioli district of Rome is usually described as fashionable. Most of the high ranking Fascists lived there during the Mussolini days, including the man himself. Today, Parioli’s got some embassies, Villa Ada (Rome’s second largest public park), fancy restaurants and elegant apartment buildings. And an insane little neighborhood: the Quartiere Coppedé. I stumbled on it a few years ago when I was nearby for a doctor’s appointment and I’ve been meaning to get back there with my camera ever since. Yesterday, after cooling my heels for some hours in the Sri Lankan embassy where I was trying to get a visa, I discovered to my delight that the Quartiere Coppedé was just a few blocks away. And yay, I had my camera with me!
In 1919, Florentine architect Gino Coppede was commissioned to design a luxurious new residential area in Rome for professionals and civil servants. Coppede was known for his exuberant and over the top approach to architecture as seen in the villas and palazzi he’d designed back home. The best way to enter Coppede’s Quartiere is through the massive arch on the corner of Via Tagliamento and Via Dora, just north of the Viale Regina Margherita at the Piazza Buenos Aires. The arch, which connects two apartment buildings, is covered with lion heads and soldiers and even features a huge iron chandelier. The zone, which was completed in 1926 just before Mussolini lowered the boom on whimsy, includes about 40 buildings on five streets.
It’s impossible to characterize the style of the Quartiere Coppedé, which combines classical, medieval, Byzantine, Art Deco and Liberty elements with mosaics, frescos, gargoyles, brickwork, turrets, towers and loggias. There’s a brilliant fountain in Piazza Mincio featuring fat frogs spitting water into a basin. The Spider Palace and Fairy Cottages are pretty memorable as well. But rather than waste anymore of your time trying to pretend that I know anything about about art or architecture, let’s just have a look, shall we?
Above all, the Quartiere Coppedé is a joyful and completely unexpected place. It makes me so happy to look at those spitting frogs. If you’re ever in Rome, don’t miss it!